DEER LODGE — The pandemic has given unexpected benefits to some small towns by giving them a chance to host big events.
For Deer Lodge, the opportunity came in the form of the Western C Division girls and boys basketball tournament. This is a town that hasn’t seen a major tournament in decades.
“And it’s good for the whole community, we have lots of our eating establishments, our gas stations, everybody is benefiting from this, so we’re so excited,” said Deer Lodge resident Joan Sewell.
Eleven schools have dressed 16 teams for the tournament this week in a town that historically gets passed over for larger cities. Mayor Diana Solle said she talked to an employee at the local McDonald’s recently about how things were going.
“So I asked the young man, ‘are you guys pretty busy,’ he said, ‘are we busy?,’ he says, ‘we went off our shift and we got called back, we had to work so hard,’ I said, “Good!’” said Solle.
Deer Lodge has a handful of restaurants and only three motels. Many of the out-of-town teams said Deer Lodge has done a good job hosting the tournament and they’ve been able to find lodging in Butte about 37 miles away.
“Last night was a little late for supper time, we got back to Butte, no restaurants were open and so we had to do takeout from Wendy’s,” said Ennis resident Dan Reinoehl.
And this is normally a very slow time of year for Deer Lodge, so having this tournament here is a real boost for the local economy, especially, after it suffered during the pandemic.
“The tourist here, I mean, that’s what we count on. January, February, and March are pretty quiet in Deer Lodge, it’s not tourism season, it’s cold, it’s tax time, it’s pretty quiet and we look forward to May when the tourists start coming. And it’s just like … we shed that awful winter,” said Solle.